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Vernon’s Anson McMaster plays for his teammates and his community in his final year of junior hockey

Photo credit: Garrett James Photography

By Kenneth Wong

Vernon Vipers defenceman Anson McMaster was born and raised in Siksika, Alta., an Indigenous community near Calgary with a population of around 3,500 people.

“[Heritage], it’s everything for me,” he said. “I’m very proud of where I came from and what my culture has to offer. [We are] very outgoing and very vibrant. I’m not afraid to show it and I’m happy to represent my nation and my hometown.”

He took to the ice at a young age, playing in his minor hockey in nearby communities like Okotoks and Chestermere. Unfortunately, during that time, he faced an all-too-common challenge for people in his community when he would sometimes be faced with racist remarks.

“It was tough at the time,” he said. “You don’t really know how to handle those types of things in the moment. I just kind of kept my head down and continued to work and use hockey as an escape for me.”

Thankfully, as McMaster has advanced in his career, this has become less and less of an issue.

“I’ve been fortunate to be a part of some great organizations and gotten to know some very mature players, coaching staffs and management groups that treated [my race] almost like it’s nothing, as it should be.”

After his minor hockey stint in Alberta, McMaster embarked on a three-plus year career in the Western Hockey League, first with the Winnipeg Ice before getting his first taste of British Columbia when he was acquired by the Victoria Royals. He eventually made the switch to the BCHL in October of this season when he joined the Vipers for the remainder of the year. From all accounts, he fit in right away, both on and off the ice.

Standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing in at 210 pounds, McMaster is one half of the ‘Twin Towers’ on the Vipers defence, along with his partner Luke Ashton, who comes in it at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds.

Although the two don’t put up gaudy offensive numbers – McMaster had 14 points during the regular season and Ashton had four – they are a steady, reliable pair that can be counted on to take care of their own end and use their muscle against their opponents.

Vipers head coach and general manager Jason McKee described McMaster as consistent in his approach.

“Day in and day out, you’re getting the same player, the same person,” said McKee. “He’s very emotionally stable, just understanding the moments that happen in games. His calmness definitely rectifies our group.”

Ashton, his partner on the blueline, echoes his coach’s sentiments.

“He’s very dedicated to hockey,” he said. “He’s very hardworking and he has great leadership skills. As a player, I think his personality kind of carries over. He’s one of the bigger voices on our team. He’s the type of person where you could talk about hockey, but also talk about life. He’s a leader that can figure things out pretty easily and has an all-around game that every team likes. Every team would want a player like him.”

As a 20-year-old, McMaster’s time in junior hockey will come to an end whenever the Vipers playoff run concludes. The good thing about that, is he has some control over when that happens as he and his teammates get set to battle the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in the second round of the playoffs, starting tonight, after they eliminated the West Kelowna Warriors in six games during Round 1.

Next year, McMaster has committed to play for the University of Ottawa, but beyond that, he hopes to play professionally either in North America or in Europe. Along with going pro, McMaster aims to get a business degree as well.

“There’s a lot of opportunity back home,” he said. “Whether that’s growing or creating more opportunities for my people back home and making more of a splash on the map, so to say. I’m focused on getting our name out there and helping us grow as a community.”